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Will 2021 be the year for growth? CFOs are optimistic

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With the worst of the pandemic in the rearview mirror, CFOs are looking forward to the rest of 2021—and to a rebound. A clear majority of finance leaders who responded to PwC’s March US Pulse Survey (87%) say they expect revenues to increase, significantly higher than the 25% who saw an increase in revenue back in September. An even stronger sign of their rosy outlook is the 32% who told us they expect revenue to increase by more than 10% this year.

This optimism is supported by increases to growth forecasts by the International Monetary Fund and various investment banks. In early April, the IMF said it expects the global economy to grow by 6% this year, up from a forecast of 5.5% in January. US GDP is expected to expand by 6.4%, the IMF said. And some banks are forecasting between 6.8% and 8.1% GDP growth this year.

The increasingly bullish outlook comes on the heels of the shifts many CFOs helped put into place to keep their companies going over the past year. They changed business models and looked for new ways to generate revenue and drive more efficient outcomes. They made changes to products and services, pricing strategies, customer segments and distribution channels.

They also invested in technology to help achieve these goals, including optimizing data analytics, automation and cloud computing—and they protected these investments at the height of the pandemic when many companies were forced to cut other costs in order to survive. For many finance leaders, investing in digital was nothing new. Many had already been making changes to their finance functions to be more digitally enabled, like automating transactional processing to allow for more analysis and insight and moving applications to the cloud to be more agile and create efficiencies. But the pandemic sparked a renewed urgency around digital transformation and other tech investments. It’s become an imperative for many business leaders, including CFOs. In fact, automation is a top priority for finance leaders this year, as both a means for growth and an accelerator for cost reduction efforts.

Finance leaders are also focusing on the workforce to help drive growth. Nearly three-quarters (71%) of the CFOs told us they’re investing in new tools to help with remote work, while 60% are investing in training their workforce on digital tools. The pandemic made the connection between the workforce and digital very clear: Together, they allow for a more agile business model that can react and respond to disruption while capitalizing on opportunities that come out of it.

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J.C. Lapierre

J.C. Lapierre

Chief Strategy and Communications Officer, PwC US

Neil Dhar

Neil Dhar

Vice Chair - Chief Clients Officer, PwC US

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